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Piatt County Chairman Tosses Hat in Ring for State House Seat

MONTICELLO — Saying that he wants to serve four years and then get out of the Legislature, Piatt County Board Chairman Randy Keith declared Monday that he is a Republican candidate for state representative in the 101st House District.
He joins Todd Henricks of Cerro Gordo and Dan Caulkins of Decatur as Republican contenders for the seat being vacated by state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth. No Democratic candidate has surfaced in the heavily Republican district.
The 101st House District includes all or parts of Champaign, Macon, DeWitt, Piatt and McLean counties.
At first, Keith admitted Monday, he wanted no part of the Legislature after he heard that Mitchell was stepping down after 20 years in the House.
"But when I got home that night, I had three phone calls from friends of mine who said, 'You need to run. You need to run,'" Keith said. "They just kept working on me. I'm a Christian so I prayed on it. And I had some grandchildren tell me, 'Grandpa, you always say don't give up. Never give up.' And I didn't want to be one of those people in the state who say nothing can be fixed, it can't be done.
"So I've decided that I'll do it. I'll only do it for four years. I'll give it four years of my life and only give four years of my life, to go over there and try to fix some of these problems."
Keith, 65, said that is what he has tried to do in his four years as county board chairman in Piatt County.
"That's what I do as the county board chairman. You talk to any county board chairman, and they'll tell you everyday that you're out there fixing problems," said Keith. "We don't have the luxury of printing money or kicking problems down the road or whatever. We have to fix them. They need some of that, I think, over there."
Keith retired in 2011 after working about 40 years at the Kraft Food plant in Champaign.
"I'm a worker. I'm a grinder. I've never known anything but work my entire life. You give me a problem, and I've got a little bulldog in me. I work and play well with others," he said. "I like compromise. Many times I've been out in yards talking to two neighbors who aren't getting along over a zoning issue or something, so I try to help them find common ground. Maybe if we can find some common ground and make both of you a little happy, that helps. It works a lot of the time."
Keith is a 1971 graduate of Gibson City High School. He volunteered for the U.S. Army shortly after graduation and served two years in the military police in Germany. He lives in rural Monticello with Kathy, his wife of 28 years. He has four children and 10 grandchildren.
He filed his statement of organization Monday with the Illinois State Board of Elections and said he put $5,000 into the campaign.
"Me and Kathy, we talked about it. I'm not a wealthy man. I'm not poor but $5,000 is a lot of money," he said. "People told me don't put in your own money, but what would you think of a guy who doesn't have enough faith in himself to have some skin in the game, but I'm going to ask you for money?"

He said he had talked to representatives of the House Republicans and Gov. Bruce Rauner, but got no commitments of help. Nor did anyone try to discourage him.
"They're good guys. They're all right. But they don't want to support anybody because it's a Republican primary," he said. "I've never felt that way. We've had Republicans run in the primary, and I always say what I think is best for the folks in Piatt County."
Keith said he would not have voted for the income tax increase that House Democrats and a handful of Republicans, including Mitchell, passed in July, ending a two-year-long budget stalemate.
"I wouldn't have voted for that 32 percent tax hike. My question is, you could have done that two years ago. But we did get some cuts out of it," he said. "What's past is past. I'm more focused on let's fix stuff. Give me a problem, and I'll help solve it. Let me help solve it."

Paid for by Friends of Randy Keith.
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